Hair is one of the most significantly cherished parts of a human body. The health of your hair can sometimes be indicative of your overall health. Hair loss, also known as alopecia, is a condition that can be observed in any individual due to a variety of factors. It can temporarily or permanently affect either just the scalp or the entire body. Heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions, or aging are some of the most common reasons for the onset of alopecia in individuals.
What causes hair fall?
Losing an excessive amount of hair from the scalp can be an early sign of balding. Among several other factors that cause hair loss, the most common cause is genetics causing hereditary male- or female-pattern baldness. If a person has a family history of baldness, they are more likely to experience this type of hair loss. Certain hormones can often trigger hereditary hair loss as early as at the time of puberty.
In some cases, one might experience some hair loss due to a halt in the cycle of hair growth. This can be triggered due to major illnesses, major surgeries, or certain traumatic events. In such cases where hair loss is triggered by an external stimulus, your hair will eventually grow back without the need for any treatment.
Since hair loss can be categorized into several different types, finding the cause of each case can prove to be a challenging process. Following are some of the reasons that have been known to induce hair loss in some individuals:
- Medical conditions
In some cases, hair loss may be observed as a symptom of a medical condition as is observed in case of certain autoimmune diseases, PCOS, psoriasis, etc.
Stress can be one of the most significant factors affecting hair loss in individuals. Even in certain medical conditions like pregnancy, the primary cause of hair loss (telogen effluvium) is narrowed down to stress or shock caused by an imbalance of hormones in the body.
- Hormonal imbalance
Hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are pivotal in maintaining hair growth cycles. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone in women are known to cause rapid growth of hair. Hence, women in menopause may experience excessive hair fall. On the other hand, testosterone is responsible for the development of male baldness patterns in males.
- Nutrient imbalance and deficiency
Lack of essential nutrients like biotin (vitamin H) and minerals such as zinc can cause hair loss in adults as well as children. On the other hand, excessive consumption of vitamin A can also be responsible for hair loss in some individuals.
- Medical treatments
Certain invasive medical treatments like chemotherapy, birth control medication, anticoagulants, etc., often exhibit temporary hair loss as a common side-effect.
- Improper hair care
Certain hair grooming practices like aggressive brushing, using strong shampoos more often than recommended, undergoing chemical treatments like bleaching, dyeing, and perming, and excessive use of heat-styling products, may cause significant damage to your hair, resulting in hair loss.
Signs and symptoms of hair loss
A person may start showing symptoms of hair loss in many ways, depending on the cause of the condition. While the symptoms of hair loss are fairly obvious, the scale at which the symptoms appear can point to the severity of the condition. The symptoms may appear suddenly or may be observed over a long period of time, affecting either just the scalp or the whole body.
While hair loss itself is easily noticeable, there are certain signs to look for when determining whether you are experiencing a serious condition of hair loss, or whether it is just natural hair fall which is observed at the end of a hair growth cycle. Some of these signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Pattern balding
When hair loss is concentrated towards a specific portion of the hair, such as the crown of the head causing a receding hairline, or the back of the head, it is referred to as pattern balding. This is often a sign of hereditary hair loss.
- Loss of patches of hair
When one experiences shedding of certain patches of hair on the scalp or on the body, this is often linked to either certain skin conditions or medical treatments.
In case any form of itchiness is associated with the loss of hair, a doctor must be consulted immediately.
Diagnosis and treatment options
While some people may prefer to let their hair loss run its course untreated and unhidden, others may choose to cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats, or scarves. Many opt for creative ways of covering up their hair loss with the help of wigs or hair weaves. Few may also choose to undergo one of the treatments available to prevent further hair loss or restore growth. A few of the most common treatment options for hair loss are as follows:
If hair loss is caused by a medical condition, treatment for that condition is necessary. In cases where a certain medication is causing the hair loss, the doctor may advise you to stop using it for a few months. Medicines like Minoxidil (Rogaine), Finasteride (Propecia) or other medications like spironolactone (Carospir, Aldactone) and oral dutasteride (Avodart) are some of the medications that may be used to reduce hair loss.
- Hair transplant surgery
In the most common types of permanent hair loss, only the top of the head is affected. During a hair transplant procedure, strands of hair from a part of the head that has hair is transplanted to a bald spot. It must be noted that hereditary hair loss will eventually progress despite surgery.
- Laser therapy
Certain low-level laser devices are approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for hereditary hair loss in men and women, which is sometimes successful in stimulating hair growth. However, there aren’t enough studies that prove long-term effects.
Natural remedies are a great way of treating mild forms of hair loss. Some of the more temporary forms of hair loss can be easily tackled with natural remedies. A regulated diet and hair care routine is essential to controlling hair fall of any kind. The following remedies are known to be helpful in treating hair loss:
- Aloe vera
Aloe vera, with its soothing and cleansing properties, can help condition the hair and unclog hair follicles that are blocked by sebum and dirt. You may apply aloe vera gel directly onto the scalp or you may also use shampoos and conditioners that contain aloe vera (opt for SLS- and parabens-free hair products).
- Deep conditioning with oils
Massaging the scalp with oils like coconut oil, jojoba oil, rosemary oil, and safflower oil, can help strengthen your hair follicles and promote hair growth. It also helps prevent dandruff by nourishing the dry scalp. Moreover, massaging your scalp regularly helps relieve stress.
- Onion juice
While very tempting to the nose, onion juice is a very effective remedy for alopecia areata. The sulphur present in onions helps improve circulation, prevents scalp infections, and is also known to promote hair growth.
Eggs are rich in proteins, due to which an egg mask proves to be a highly effective hair loss remedy. It promotes regrowth of hair and also adds softness and shine to your hair.
- Apple cider vinegar
Rinsing your scalp with a healthy proportion of apple cider vinegar and water can help unclog pores on the scalp, and also help rid of any bacteria that may have been accumulated in these pores.
How can diet affect hair loss symptoms and conditions?
While there are several medical conditions (thyroid, hormonal issues, genetics, etc) that may be causing your hair loss, your diet can sometimes be a crucial factor affecting your condition. Including the following foods in your diet can help control hair loss:
Spinach and other leafy greens are filled with a plethora of nutrients like iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and essential fibers. These nutrients promote hair growth by aiding growth and repair, improving circulation of blood and oxygen, and keeping the scalp healthy and moisturized.
Avocados have gained extreme popularity over the past couple of years, and with good reason! They are a great source of healthy fats and vitamin E, and provide the body with essential antioxidants. Vitamin E promotes hair growth and protects the scalp from oxidative stress.
- Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are essentially rich in antioxidants and vitamin E which promotes hair growth. Some of them may contain omega-3s and other essential fatty acids.
Beans are another great source of protein essential for the growth of hair. They are also rich in minerals like zinc, which plays a major role in the hair growth cycle.
- Seafood and meat
Especially known for its high protein content, seafood including shrimp, oysters, and salmon can prove to be an abundant source of minerals, fatty acids, and other nutrients. Animal meat is another important source of protein which also aids hair growth.
Rather than finding a cure after the damage is done, it’s always better to take necessary precautions. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to avoiding any form of health condition. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can prove to be helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To prevent any hair damage that may result in hair loss, here are some tips that may prove to be useful:
- Avoid the chemicals
Leaving your hair in its natural color and texture is one of the best ways to avoid long-term damage. If that is not an option for you, give your hair some time between blowouts and chemical treatments, to give some breathing room for recovery from any damage. When curling your hair, choose sponge rollers that aren’t aggressive and cause less damage. Also, brush your hair using a moderately stiff, natural-bristle brush or a paddle brush, which is less likely to tear your hair. Make sure to use a basic, SLS-free shampoo, which is designed for your hair type.
- Brush your hair with care
When your hair’s wet, it is better to use a wide-toothed comb instead of a hairbrush. Brushing wet hair can cause more damage than dry brushing, and may cause hair to weaken and break. When brushing dry hair, make sure to be gentle with the knots and the roots. Use a detangler whenever possible.
- Drink water
Our body is made up of approximately 70% water. Each and every cell requires water to carry out their functions. Water hydrates the skin cells, and hence prevents our skin from desiccating. Drinking enough water ensures a healthy balance of fluids within the body, which also ensures a healthy growth of cells in our body.
One of the easiest, most effective ways of preventing hair loss is to ensure the consumption of all essential and natural nutrients in your regular diet. Your meals must ideally include healthy amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats while also providing the essential vitamins and minerals from natural sources. Supplements like biotin can also be included in your diet to boost hair growth.
- Beat the stress
A healthy maintenance of stress can be a game-changer when it comes to maintaining the health of your hair, as well as your overall well-being. Meditation, journaling, regular exercise, and occasional breaks from work are some of the most basic and least time-consuming ways to help manage stress in a productive and healthy manner.